Echoing the opposition of the religious political parties, clerics at the Wafaq-ul Madaris al-Arabia Pakistan are now insisting on a ‘review’ of the Domestic Violence Bill. The proposed law has become a slow-burning issue, sharply dividing opinions in areas where, in fact, there should not be cause for debate. After all, this ostensibly controversial Bill simply outlaws any form of violence against women — surely, a basic duty of the state and in line with a largely accepted view of what a civilised society is.
Still, clerics and the right wing claim that its passage would not only be detrimental to the family structure, but would also undermine family values. Do they really believe that violence against women is acceptable in Islam? Or do they think that shielding an abuser from justice promotes family values? Given that nearly 1,000 women were murdered in the name of violence in the country in 2010, according to the HRCP, these parties need to drop their superficial religious rhetoric.
Sadly, it is not just the religious parties but also the PML-N that opposes the proposed law. It maintains that they are against some specific clauses in the Bill, with JUI-F’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman claiming that parliament simply cannot pass a bill, which is the exact copy of the one passed by the Indian parliament. Part of the backlash also comes from a feeling that it is ‘foreign-funded NGOs’ which are shoving a ‘Western’ ‘anti-Islam’ agenda down their throats. However, these parties have not articulated an Islamic solution to acid attacks, amputations, burnings, abuse and killing of women in Pakistan. What has been particularly disgraceful is the disrespectful language used by the JUI-F, with its media coordinator calling women’s rights activists “senseless women”.
While the Bill has not been thrown out, the activists who had pushed for it seem to have lost hope. For the sake of the downtrodden, one can only hope that it is passed in the near future.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2012.